‘We’ve just finalised a brand positioning exercise with our agency. I am very excited but I am not sure how to bring this to life in a way that is actionable and delivers results for the brand’.
For many brand builders this might sound familiar. After fancy workshops and lengthy internal discussions you are left with a statement (and probably a pretty power point) that articulates your new brand positioning. The truth is that the real journey is only just starting …
Before going any further here is an important point that, in the everyday routine of firefighting, brand builders tend to forget: brand positioning is a business exercise, the implications span well beyond just brand communication into business models, processes, people, capabilities, technologies for innovation etc.
A brand positioning informs not only the brand communication but also the brand’s innovation pipeline or its acquisitions policy, to mention just a few. If, after you decide on your brand positioning, the only action point is to brief the advertising agency for a new campaign, you are seriously limiting your chances for brand growth.
With this in mind, here are a few things that you could do to move from ‘paper’ to action :
1. DEFINE THE IMPLICATIONS (business, communication etc)
As a team, commit to answer thoroughly a very simple question : So what if our brand has this positioning, how does this impact the way we engage with our consumers?
You can organise one or several cross-functional working sessions to answer the question. Here are a few helpful questions that you can use during these working sessions :
- Do we have the internal capabilities to deliver the positioning ? (sales capabilities, technology capabilities, consumer service etc). If not, what are we missing and what does it take to fill the gaps ?
- Can we support the reasons to believe (e.g. technology or human related)? If not, what do we need to do or change ?
- Do we need to invest to deliver the positioning ? (in technology, people, factories, aquisitions etc)
- Do we need to change or build our innovation pipeline to respond to the target’s needs ?
- Is our business model the best to deliver the positioning ? A classic example is found in B2B when the company changes the ‘frame of reference’ and moves from ‘machines’ to ‘solutions’ (e.g. Canon and Xerox are not selling machines anymore, but solutions)
- Do we need to change our communication to reflect the positioning ?
- Do we need to revise our Contact Point strategy to reach our target?
Consolidate the various implications and prioritise them based on the impact they have on growing the brand. I use a very simple but effective matrix with the 2 axes of ‘ease of implementation’ and ‘impact on business’.
2. BUILD YOUR ACTION PLAN (for brand growth!)
To draft your action plan, start by answering a simple question: What does each team need to do to support the new positioning (so our brand is credible in front of our consumers) ?
If you have your list of implications (from the previous point) you can use these as input to your action plan. Obviously, you first want to address the implications that have the biggest impact on your brand growth: in some cases this could mean changing the entire business model, in other cases it could just focus on communication. For each of the implications, consider following up with an action. When developing the action plan it’s important to work cross-functionally. Each team within the organisation will be resposible for following up on the relevant implication.
For example, an action plan can be proposed by each specialist team:
- HR on how to embed the new capabilities that need to support the new positioning
- Marketers on what, how and where to communicate
- Customer service on new processes
- Innovation team on how to incorporate consumer insight into the pipeline
… and so on.
Recognize that things can take a while to implement!
3. GET VALIDATION AND SUPPORT FROM THE MANAGEMENT
Needless to say that it’s essential for senior management to be actively involved in the positioning exercise.
Deciding on a market of reference is a strategic choice that can influence the brand growth for many years to come. Also, choosing the target can make or break your brand growth and profitability. Your target market should be large enough to give you critical mass and be ready to pay for your product or service.
Does your management seem not to understand or hear you? You can only get your management on board if you talk their language. Forget about design, logos and look & feel. What interest them is how all these elements will make the numbers for which they are responsible. So when you present to them and ask them to validate the new positioning, it helps to include :
- why the need for a positioning / re-positioning (e.g. there is a new competitor on the market, the low differentiation in the category affects the brand sales, brand is losing market share)
- the logic behind choosing each element of the positioning (target, needs, market of reference, brand benefit, reasons to believe)
- the positioning statement itself – To (target group), who want (target group’s needs), brand …is the brand of (competitive framework), that (benefits), because only brand (reason to believe).
- the potential implications on the organisation (as in point 1)
- action plan by teams (as in point 2) – this is a must, otherwise you’re on the blah blah land
Validation by your management is not enough ! They need actively to support whatever transformation may be needed internally to deliver the new positioning. For example, if innovation is part of your positioning, there should be more focus and investments in technology, capabilities, people etc.
4. COMMUNICATE YOUR NEW POSITIONING (from the marketers’ action plan)
You went through a positioning exercise to build your brand for the long term (i.e. strategic), not just to build the next campaign (i.e. tactical). Before any campaign development, you want to determine the foundation on which all your future communications will be built. First establish (at the very minimum):
- WHAT you want to comunicate. These are your fully fledged verbal and visual platforms that you will be able to use again and again over the years (not just for one campaign !) : key messages, key words, sign off, logo, imagery, look & feel etc.
- WHERE is best to engage with consumers (Contact Point Planning).
Before you communicate to the outside world, make sure that the entire organisation knows about the change, WHY it is being done and HOW they can contribute to its success.
Do you have a brand positioning but you are not sure how to move to action and results? Reach out! We successfully helped others, we can help you too.